Monday, January 30, 2017


For Scott’s birthday, I got him an eyepatch. (What?) I also wanted to take him out for a nice dinner but my card got declined at the restaurant (is it just me or does everyone also lose track of how much online shopping they do?) so he ended up having to pay for his own birthday dinner. And then also had to pick up the tab at the bar we went to after dinner. Poor sod. Apart from my inability to keep track of my spending, what’s actually more worrisome is the fact that I seem to be inheriting my mum’s enviable knack for gift giving. (She gifts the kookiest stuff!!)
A drunk pirate turns 28!

4 months later, Scott got me an orchid for my desk at work for my birthday. It was a bid to mark territory, and according to him, he’d spent the weeks leading up to my birthday contemplating between this beautiful orchid and peeing on me.
Scotty shrine

He also compiled a booklet containing cute doodles and key information about the trip back to his hometown he’d planned and booked for us. Knowing how much Scott detests dealing with all the nitty-gritty details of travelling, I found this gesutre particularly sweet. Once, he tried to check in online on the morning of his flight, only to realize that he’d forgotten to actually book his flight. *gasp*

So began the countdown: 4 months!

I was super excited and wanted to start packing. Immediately!!!!!!! But I couldn’t. Because I had no winter clothes. I was going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe and develop a whole new sense of style. (So dramatic.) They say the secret to staying warm in winter is layering – something I knew nothing about. But thanks to and my incessant asking, “do I wear a jumper over this? Do I wear HEATTECH under this? Can I wear HEATTECH and then a turtleneck?” I learnt that there’s the thermal layer, the blouse layer, the cardigan/jumper layer, the big coat layer, the scarf, the beanie, the gloves…

I’ve always been a super light packer, something I trained myself to do because I have the upper body strength of a hamster. But these layers were messing me up, so I came up with an infograph on Adobe Illustrator to help me plan my outfits from top to bottom.
I know. CHILL OUT, JUSTINE. I’m such a dork. Unfortunately, I didn’t really stick to it and ended up packing 10 scarves to which Scott was like, “I think you’re bringing too many scarves.” And I was like, “errrr…. No, I’m not. They’re useful!”

Anyway, if you’re packing for a trip – better yet, an adventure – or any event where you need to plan several outfit changes, I highly recommend making an infograph of the clothes you need/want. In the months leading up to the trip, Scott surprised me with socks/scarves/beanies to match my pink coat. I swear I didn’t create the infograph with the intention of using it as a visual wish list, but that could happen if your boyfriend is really thoughtful!

As expected, our luggages were overflowing with knits and cookies. Luckily quick-thinking Scottine thought to vacuum pack our stuff so we scurried to the supermarket for ziplock bags and borrowed a kind neighbour’s vacuum cleaner.

Super proud of our packing, we decided to treat ourselves to a chocolate ice cream from Venchi, which was so good we actually fought over it.
Scotty hogging the cone

Thursday, January 19, 2017


When my mum first started growing herbs and vegetables in our garden some years back, her plants were scraggly and limp, and a lot of them succumbed to some sort of disease before they had the chance to bear any fruit. The soil in our garden wasn’t great, so my mum became a composting queen. She’d compost anything – my brother’s coffee grounds, my niece’s bunny’s droppings, my orange peel, whatever. Then she’d distribute different kinds of soil and composted matter in varying ratios into her pots in a grand experiment to see which one produced the healthiest plants.

I don’t think she actually knew what she was doing half the time and I don’t think she conducted her tests in a very scientific way because my mum tends just do things according to her gut (aka following no rhyme or reason.) She always worked in her garden in the mornings when it was cool, and would beckon me over to look at her ‘snail trap’ made out of clam shells, aluminum foil, and toothpicks. Eventually, she grew french beans, okra, blue pea flowers, basil, bitter gourds, ginger, mulberries, and all kinds of wonderful things because she kept at it.
'Snail Trap'
Winged beans and blue pea flower

Gardening is a slow and messy process that involves a lot of trial and error. Can you imagine sowing a seed and waiting a couple of weeks to find that you may or may not have a healthy sprout? This hobby did not appeal to me in the slightest. Having grown up in a world of instant gratification, the idea of doing something without reaping its benefits almost immediately seemed absurd. And then considering the fact that a healthy plant wasn’t guaranteed, gardening seemed like a thankless activity.

Anyway, my mum potted me a small plant for my desk at work and overtime my interest in plants grew. My plant did not, unfortunately. (I had to bring it home for my mum to nurse it back to health for me.) But the seed (hur hur) of interest had been planted (hur hur).
One man's journey to find the perfect houseplant in early July last year.
We made the rookie mistake of leaving our plant out on the balcony when we were in Sri Lanka. Sad times... In a desperate attempt to enrich our soil, we put some carrot peel (waste from cooking dinner) into the pot.

A few weeks later, we went to the garden center to get some good soil and an orchid for the loo.

Scott named our first plant Lazarus after the guy whose life Jesus restored in the Gospel of John. We just kept watering him and feeding him food scraps (lemon pulp, radish skin, grapefruit peel, etc) and now he's doing much better! Here he is posing with a bunch of other plants my mum gave us.

Larry the leech

Gardens have long been designed as sanctuaries and retreats from the stresses of life. If you feel technologically obsessed and nature deprived, I highly recommend picking gardening up as a hobby. More so if you're a millennial because of how it teaches patience and perseverance. Apparently it also reduce your blood pressure and research has shown that even just looking at a garden can give you a positive boost.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


My sister gave us a 10-minute crash course in kombucha brewing a couple of weeks back and let us take home a SCOBY – symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast – each so that we could brew our own at home. If you’re unfamiliar with kombucha, it’s a probiotic-rich beverage that’s been consumed for centuries in China, Japan, Korea, and Russia. The first recorded use of kombucha dates back to 221 BC during the Tsin dynasty in China, where it was known as “The Elix of Immortality.”

It was used for thousands of years to help stimulate metabolism and maintain a healthy immune system. Today, kombucha is on the brink of taking over the avocado as the most “fashion” of all foods, as awareness grows about its ability to increase the effectiveness of natural detoxification processes and replenish vital organic acids and enzymes required by the body for optimal health.

Kombucha is made by fermenting sweetened tea with a SCOBY. In the video, the SCOBY is the whitish, pancake-like blob that Scott drops into the big jar. The fermentation process takes 7-12 days depending on temperature and strength of the SCOBY. It consumes over 90% of the sugar during fermentation, resulting in a low-sugar finished product that tastes very similar to apple cider vinegar.

One evening, we noticed brown streaks and splotches on our SCOBY and were fretting over whether it was mold. We decided to scoop it out of our jar in order to better assess it on a plate. Then I shoved Scott out of the way because his broad shoulders were blocking the light. Like, “MOVE, DUDE!” This shocked both of us because I am usually non-violent – except for the time I bit Scott’s bicep when I got bored while he was reading an article. Ie: he wasn’t giving me enough attention.

As expected, I was unable to draw any conclusions on my own, so Scott had to step in to make the call. He decided that our SCOBY wasn’t moldy. Phew! Putting it back into the jar was no longer an option after all our poking and prodding, so we decided to use it as a face mask. Scott was unsure. But as my mother always says, “anything you can eat, you can definitely put on your face.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

September 2016

This dinner marks the end of an era because when we were in IKEA the next day, Scott realized that he didn't really like eating on purple plates anymore and decided to buy a set of off-white tableware. We had a juicy beef burger and shortbread for dessert that evening. For the patties: minced beef, chopped red onions, an egg. We used walnut bread which we got from a bakery in the basement of Takashimaya and dressed the burger with some lettuce, tomatoes, and cheddar.
Making a mess with his IKEA hotdog

In a world where rampant consumerism is the norm, choosing a frugal lifestyle can sometimes mean living as an outcast. Apart from being scrooges when it comes to leeks, Scott and I aren't in the habit of spending ridiculous amounts of money on eggs and coffee. Although we admittedly had brunch after our yoga class last Saturday and cannot resist the Torta de Garbanzo from Super Loco, which according to Scott is the shrödinger's cat of sandwiches.
We be brunchin' (2017, OverEasy) 

Scotty and his Torta de Garbanzo

Here's what he had to say about the Torta de Garbanzo when we went there in early September:

On a weekend morning I often get a craving for what can only be described as one of the most transcendental sandwich experiences available on this little red dot or on the wider blue dot that surrounds it (Ie: it's a pretty damn good sandwich)

I've probably had six of these sandwiches in the last six months and here's the gripe. Whilst the ideal of this sandwich is excellence, the inconsistency of formation unsettles me. I've been served two different kinds of bread, three different kinds of chickpea fritter, pickles, no pickles, and any number of different sauces, pastes, and other assorted moistening agents. I never know what I'm gonna get. Whilst some variation is ok, valued even, the core constituents of the sandwich should be consistent. Ie: where the hell are my pickles?

Yesterday I made the happy stroll down to Super Loco to enjoy this public holiday weekend with an iced latte and the aforementioned sandwich. Ordered, I sit there anxious, nervous at what creation will come to me this time. The man comes. It looks reasonable. The plantain chips that usually come on the side have been replaced with tortilla chips; a letdown but I'm gonna concentrate on the sandwich. I lift the lid, the fritter is in its usual awkward shapes and the sauces look different to those previously encountered. But none of these things disturb me as much as the lack of damn pickles. Where are my pickles?! I call the man. I ask, "where are the pickles? This sandwich usually comes with pickles." "No, it don't," comes a response. "Yes it does," I've ordered this sandwich many times, it's written on the menu. "Please can you bring me some pickles," I ask. "Lemme go check." After a couple of minutes, he comes back with a little ramekin full of the missing pickles. A little bit of construction later and we're ready to go. Delicious.

So here's my bugbear. You guys have come up with one of the greatest sandwiches ever conceived. On its day, the bread is soft yet doesn't crumble; the textures within range from creamy, mushy, toothsome, and crunchy (my missing plantain chips); and the flavours spicy but not eye-watering, salivating but not salty, and with the fragrancy of a sexy Mexican woman who has just finished eating. Usually however you might get one or two of these things. I'm never sure whether I'm going to be happy or sad when the plate arrives. Sometimes I question if I should stop ordering the sandwich so it can live on in that perfect conceptual state and not experience the finality that opening the box reveals. TL;DR - please provide checklist to your sandwich artists: chickpea fritter, salad, pickled cactus, chimichurri mayo, plantain chips.

Anyway, instead of brunchin' at some hipster cafe, we usually roll around in bed for three hours. I wake up around 7AM regardless of my bedtime the previous night, so I usually wedge my head in Scott's armpit or breathe down the back of his neck/in his face (depending on his sleeping position), till he gets irritated with me and wakes up. Then we get out of bed to cook eggs.

Not yet.

Not yet.

Not yet.

Note yet.

Not yet.


Too late.

- Avocados

Lentil stew is the perfect meal when you're on an unpaid internship abroad because it is cheap, easy, and filling. I ate this almost everyday when I was in Antwerp. The basic ingredients: onions, carrots, lentils, turmeric powder, tomato paste. I'd also throw in huge chunks of feta cheese because it was so cheap if you bought it from the Turkish supermarket. Sometimes I'd add lamb if I were feeling rich. Or faint and malnourished. Scott wasn't very impressed by this dish. Lol. Now we have a big bag of lentils sitting in the cupboard.

We were supposed to cook but I ended up working a bit late so Scott got Chinese takeout for dinner. Because Scott is like, tall and has a beard. Like, a man. I always assume he wants to eat a big piece of steak. Because, you know, he's tall and has a beard. Like, a man. But breaking the stereotype, he usually asks for braised tofu and fish porridge, which is very adorable. And duh some roast duck. Cuz, tall and beard. Man.

Eggs and avocados and whatever vegetables we could find in the fridge.

Eggs and avocados and whatever vegetables we could find in the fridge again. I used to hate buying avocados because I'd buy them and then have to wait a week for them to ripen. Only to cut them open and find that they've gone rogue. So annoying. Anyway, we were quite lucky with the bag we bought, but they started going a bit brown towards the end, which is why we mushed the last avocado. For some bizarre reason, Scott didn't try to pass it through the sieve. PSA - avocado with a spritz of lemon, salt and chilli flakes is the way to go.

Monday, January 9, 2017

July 2016

Scott got his flatmate a cookbook by Ferran Adria for Christmas the year before to encourage him to cook more often. Lucky for us, his flatmate kept it out in the living room so we were able to use it too. Scott and I took turns picking a random number between 1 and 31 (there are 31 meals within the book). Then we'd flip to the corresponding meal in the book and try to make it happen.
I found the book to be super helpful because each recipe is generously accompanied with step-by-step photographs, which gives kitchen rookies like myself a better idea of how everything is supposed to look as its all coming together.

Meal #17: baked potatoes with romesco sauce, whiting in salsa verde, and rice pudding. OK, so maybe we only followed the 'baked potatoes' and 'fish' part of the recipe and made everything else up. This was when I first took notice of Scott's compulsion to puree things through a sieve, which I wrote off as dedication initially but then later realized was an obsession. During this time, I also realized that Scotty likes to put chopped spring onions on errrrthang. He's so funny. Everything started making more sense, like how he always, always leaves the supermarket with a bag of spring onions.

Meal #3: vichyssoise, lamb with mustard and mint, and chocolate truffles. There was no chance we were making the cold leek and potato soup, so we made lamb stew with mashed potatoes instead. Scott's insistence on pushing boiled potatoes through a sieve amused me to no end. This was when his particularity about taste, texture, and presentation came to light. But 45 minutes, an aching arm, and lots of sweat later, we had the creamiest mash! A few weeks after this incident we went to Mustafa and bought a hand blender.

We ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning (we do this a lot). Mixed some chopped vegetables into the mash and fried them like patties in the pan. Scott was still drinking a glass of milk in the mornings at this point... The pretty fuchsia mess is beetroot with a yogurt dressing to go with. My mum always nags at me to "eat the rainbow" to get me to include a variety of fruit and vegetables in my diet so that I get the different minerals and vitamins. Blue is a tough one for us. We eat blueberries and drink blue pea flower tea occasionally. Unfortunately, our blue pea plant (pictured right) isn't doing very well. Any ideas for eating blue?
We stopped using the cookbook soon after because a lot of the meals required like, 5 litres of romesco sauce, which we couldn't be bothered with.

Anyway, one thing I like about Scott is how whenever we go to Shirokiya, he always orders a dish of pickled Japanese cucumber with plum and bonito flakes without fail. [FYI: they moved from Cuppage to CHIJMES :'( ] You know how when you go out to dinner with friends and each person gets to pick a dish from the menu to share with everyone else? I'm the twit who'd order pickled cucumbers and get eye rolls from the rest of the table because not a lot of people can understand the logic of going to a restaurant and ordering a plate of cucumbers.

Anyway, we figured out how to recreate this dish at home. Basically, Japanese cucumbers, sour plum, bonito flakes, sesame seeds. Again, Scott insisted on putting the sour plum through a sieve to get the 'right texture.' But honestly, if you're not fussy and don't have the patience, mushing it with a fork will do the trick. We had it with roast pork - SO YUMMY. I don't really eat pork but I couldn't resist this one. I don't know how Scott did it. I guess on the pan? A bowl of edamame and soba with mushrooms topped with lots of spring onions.

We had banana pancakes one weekend!!!! I LOVE BANANA PANCAKES! Or rather, crepes with bananas on top. Staying true to the 'no measurements' policy we have in the kitchen, I did not know how much flour to put into the batter and ended up putting too much. Not sure if Scott is just not a fan of sweet stuff in the mornings or just not a fan of tough rubbery crepes in general.... We had this one time and then went back to having eggs and vegetables for breakfast.

Salmon omelette!! This was really yummy. Scott did all the chopping and cooking for this one while I pitted the cherries.

Scott made pasta from scratch one evening!!
Sweet potato fries, some vegetables, and fish, which we did two ways. One panfried on the stove with dressing (garlic, herbs, anchovies) on the side, the other we baked in the oven with the dressing. We both preferred the baked one because the raw dressing on the side was a bit overwhelming.

Such a good breakfast this was. Ok, backstory: Scott is quite frugal when it comes to grocery shopping. His shopping outlook is complementary to my mother's "a penny saved is a penny earned" philosophy that I was brought up under, so we are mostly agreeable on when we want to splurge and save. For example, Scott refuses to buy leeks in Singapore where they cost $20/kilo because he knows he can get them for $3/kilo back home. Fortunately, I do not like leeks that much so this hasn't been a source of friction between us. Anyway, I don't know how it happened, but we ended up paying $9 for a broccoli one day. Scott made damn sure we ate every bit of that broccoli =) We ate the head with our leftovers (kebabs from Sufi's at Arab Street) and cheddar cheese. And then the stem and whatever other little bits tossed in salt and olive oil.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

August 2016

We bought ourselves a small bag of 'Sri Lankan Spices' as a souvenir from our trip. I don't know what it consists of but by the look and smell of it, turmeric powder and umm... maybe grounded cumin?? (A little bit of turmeric every day keeps arthritis away! From bae!)

N-E way, we made Empire Chicken a couple of weeks after our trip. So yummy! And simple.
Scott worked in a kitchen when he was a teenager. I forget, did I tell you that already? He works very quickly and efficiently, chops stuff at lightning speed like they do in the cooking shows on TV, doesn't hesitate when handling raw meat, can crack an egg in one hand with ease, can juggle potatoes in the oven and vegetables on the stove and have pastry rolled out on the counter for dessert and make lemonade at the same time.

I am the complete opposite. My cooking style is more 'admire the veins on the vegetables for 10 minutes/try not to let the chicken thigh slip out of my hands/try not to cut my finger off.' I found cooking with him very stressful in the beginning because I couldn't keep up. It made me feel embarrassed and inadequate, particularly because I come from a long line of kitchen goddesses. #PeranakanPride. But it is what it is, so I take charge of washing up after dinner to make up for it.
Ok, Empire Chicken: I think we mixed some of the powdered spice with yogurt and tomato paste and then rubbed it all over the chicken. And then put it in the oven for three quarters of an hour on a grill over some potatoes. Then blanched some long beans and carrots to go alongside.
I'm not trying to be an asshat by giving vague instructions. We don't really pay attention to measurements and we make a lot of it up along the way, which I think is what makes it fun.

And then we ate the leftovers the next morning with some egg and avocado.
And then later that month, we had chicken and potatoes again. With a bitter gourd omelette. We used the small variety, which is a bit more bitter than the bigger ones. Scott let me prepare the bitter gourd and was expecting me to soak it in salt water to reduce its bitterness. But I did not because my mother does not, her reason being that it is important to eat all the 6 tastes - sour, salty, astringent, pungent, bitter, sweet - regularly, according to Ayurveda.

Scott was a bit like, 'ehhhh?? Errrrr....' at first but then ate it with a smile anyway. I used to roll my eyes whenever my mum would tell me that we need to experience bitterness to appreciate the sweetness. But it's the truth! Blah blah blah aside, bitter gourds have properties that remove toxin from the blood and help cleanse the liver. (If you have a hangover or gout, drink bitter gourd juice!)